The data analysis tool of choice for many Sun-Earth Connection missions is the Interactive Data Language (IDL) by ITT VIS. The increasing amount of data produced by these missions and the increasing complexity of image processing algorithms requires access to higher computing power. Parallel computing is a cost-effective way to increase the speed of computation, but algorithms oftentimes have to be modified to take advantage of parallel systems. Enhancing IDL to work on clusters gives scientists access to increased performance in a familiar programming environment. The goal of this project was to enable IDL applications to benefit from both computing clusters as well as graphics processing units (GPUs) for accelerating data analysis tasks.
The tool suite developed in this project enables scientists now to solve demanding data analysis problems in IDL that previously required specialized software, and it allows them to be solved orders of magnitude faster than on conventional PCs. The tool suite consists of three components: (1) TaskDL, a software tool that simplifies the creation and management of task farms, collections of tasks that can be processed independently and require only small amounts of data communication; (2) mpiDL, a tool that allows IDL developers to use the Message Passing Interface (MPI) inside IDL for problems that require large amounts of data to be exchanged among multiple processors; and (3) GPULib, a tool that simplifies the use of GPUs as mathematical co-processors from within IDL.
mpiDL is unique in its support for the full MPI standard and its support of a broad range of MPI implementations. GPULib is unique in enabling users to take advantage of an inexpensive piece of hardware, possibly already installed in their computer, and achieve orders of magnitude faster execution time for numerically complex algorithms. TaskDL enables the simple setup and management of task farms on compute clusters.
The products developed in this project have the potential to interact, so one can build a cluster of PCs, each equipped with a GPU, and use mpiDL to communicate between the nodes and GPULib to accelerate the computations on each node.
This work was done by Peter Messmer of Tech-X Corporation for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15749-1